Funky or Functional? The USP dilemma

Creating an effective USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is key for any job seeker or career  changer. It a major, invaluable tool in the job search tool box and will serve as a basis for:

  • One sentence bio either written or oral
  • Your online professional profile tagline (120 characters with spacse on LinkedIn)
  • Any introduction (occasion appropriate!)
  • Telephone message
  • Twitter profile (160 characters)
  • Job fair pitch  ( MBA, entry-level)


Dreaming  this up is an agonising process for most of us. We struggle to find a balance between finding something that is authentic, words that don’t sound fake, crass and pushy, using keywords for online effectiveness, but at the same time something that can be delivered verbally. All the time conveying a benefit, in an occasion appropriate way. What might sound great in a networking meeting could clear a bar in seconds.  On top of this, we want to sound unique. It’s really tough. How do we differentiate ourselves from  the thousands of  highly qualified  professionals, entry-level or MBA candidates who might be on the job market

The following questions need to be addressed: Be FABulous

  • Who are you?
  • What  makes you special?
  • Where and how do you add value?

To achieve this, there is no way of getting around the basic career management and strategy tool of identifying transferable skills and gaining self insight.  I use the CARS method  (Challenges, Actions, Results,  Skills)  also known as STAR.  I am always astounded by the number of individuals who actually try to create a career strategy without going through this process. But like a string of pearls, your skills and qualities will be threaded through your experiences and serve to make you unique. Tie these into you passion, vision, values and goals for an overall picture of what is YOUR critical make-up.

Add key metrics to highlight your success stories. Sadly, there are no short cuts and those that try to do just that, eventually become unstuck.  This means if individuals don’t know who they are and what they’re good at, how can they expect anyone else to know?

Use also the Be FABulous format  –  Facts, Achievements and Benefits.

Funky or functional?

Some have a gift for personal insight and seem to produce the right words which reflect their personalities:

  • ” dedicated business development ninja” ,
  • Pharma Research funketeer, successfully combines science ( PhD), business ( MBA) and innovation
  •  “IT Solutions consultant,  marries the achievable with the sublime.


Others are more cautious about being bold with creative vocabulary. They also have a point,  as keywords in this part of  their online profiles generally carry a higher SEO.  Many frequently use a job title or student status, whether because they understand this, or they are simply less creative  – who knows. This is fine of course, but clearly not unique and is a waste of prime real estate.  It is therefore a good idea to add  some keywords to your jazzy content, relating to hard skills such as academic qualifications  ( PhD, MBA) ,  any certifications  (CPA, CIPD, LLM )  or sector titles  (business development, pharma research, economic analysis, or  IT solutions). These are searchable words that recruiters use when they identify candidates.

Career Changers

Career changers can reference a previous career with a target role, function or sector:

  •  “Dedicated business  development ninja (Exec MBA) aspiring to leadership role 
  • IT Solutions delivery expert, marries achievable & sublime,  passionate about sustainable energy”,   
  • Pharma Research funketeer (PhD), business minded ( MBA)  innovative and creative, transitioning to marketing “.  

Own, Anchor, Deliver 

Generally, arriving at this short sentence takes a lot of thought and juggling with vocabulary. Research on LinkedIn and check out other headlines. No one else can do it for you but getting feedback is always helpful. Do others perceive you in the same way as you perceive yourself?  Don’t be afraid to change and play around with your results until you get something you are totally comfortable with, provided of course that you are not constantly changing your key message, tweaking is fine. It’s an organic process and nothing is set in stone. That is the beauty and a superb advantage of online content, it supports intuitive learning.

To go through this process requires insight and then ownership of your success stories. You then have to anchor them in writing to help you  deliver an impactful message.

But don’t forget, it’s not enough to identify, create and articulate your key message – you have to promote it too.

Need help creating a USP? Check out the individual coaching programmes.

6 thoughts on “Funky or Functional? The USP dilemma

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